One Person’s Campaign to Clean Up Tons of Rubbish Washed Up on Fraser Island

By Jennifer Parkhurst

While on Fraser Island I divide my time between observing/photographing the dingoes, and picking rubbish up from the beaches. Both pursuits are my passions.

I have lived at Rainbow Beach for nearly 7 years and visit Fraser Island daily to observe and photograph the dingoes. In the early days while visiting the Island, I noticed that there was a huge amount of rubbish on the beach, especially in the many creeks on the eastern side of the island.

The rubbish was literally choking these creeks which should have been pristine, especially in a World Heritage Area.

Day after day I drove past the same pieces of rubbish. Eventually, sick of seeing it, I took it apon myself to clean the beach, and have been doing so nearly every day since. It has been an interesting journey and I’ve learnt a lot about the environment along the way

The first few trips to gather rubbish from Poyungan Rocks resulted in removing 27 bags of rubbish per trip.

Clearly this rubbish had been accumulating over many years.

As seasons change and weather patterns vary huge seas remove tones of sand, dump rubbish, and then eventually replace all that sand again. During this process, tones of rubbish are buried.

While this rubbish can’t be seen and isn’t really doing any damage to the environment, eventually it comes back to haunt us. Plastic becomes very brittle and breaks down to ultimately turn into pieces the size of confetti, and in due course microscopic dust. This confetti is very attractive to shorebirds which then ingest it. Autopsies performed on dead shorebirds have revealed as many as 35 pieces of plastic in their small stomachs.

Likewise, if this plastic is allowed to return to the sea, marine mammals such as dugong, seals and dolphins accidentally swallow it, causing toxic reactions, internal injuries, and septicemia. Baleen whales when opening their enormous mouths to take in krill cannot filter it out.

While picking up rubbish I have removed hundreds of balloons from the beach and now realise that something as simple as releasing balloons into the air during a celebration can have detrimental effects on the environment.

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